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Old 09-26-2011, 10:08 PM   #1
levand
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Default Same distinctive sharp off-flavor in both of my first two batches

I just tried the first couple bottles of my second batch of beer ever, and I'm rather disappointed.

My first batch was an Imperial Nut Brown from a Brewer's Best kit. It turned out ok, I thought, for a first batch, although it had a bit of acrid sharpness/sourness to it that I would rather have avoided. Still, given the style of the beer, it didn't ruin the beer by any means and it was still quite drinkable.

However, my second batch has almost exactly the same taste - stronger, if anything. And it's much worse because the targeted style was a belgian/american wheat beer (a recipe a friend says he's had great repeated success with), which has less tolerance for that flavor combination - it doesn't taste very much like my expectations at all.

The taste is not inherently unpleasant, but it's something I've never tasted in a commercial beer, and it definitely feels out of place. It's very distracting, when drinking, and it's the dominant flavor in this most recent batch. I don't know how to describe it beyond "sharp". It's not really bitter, as it doesn't contradict the malty sweetness that both beers possess. It's not a full or well-rounded flavor - it's more prominent in the onset and the aftertaste and is very prominent in the smell.

There were no visible signs of infection in either batch. I'm worried that there's something wrong with my technique, although I can't think what it would be. I tried to follow the procedures in Palmer's "How to Brew" to the letter in both cases. The two recipes had no ingredient in common (except for standard liquid malt extract).

Some things that have crossed my mind, but that I have no means of verifying:

1. Is it possible to burn the wort during the boil? I'm using a 4 gallon enamel pot, and I stirred periodically during warmup, although I relied on the natural convection of the slow rolling boil during the actual boiling phase. The flavor could, with a bit of a stretch, be interpreted as a "burnt" flavor.

2. I don't have a basement or fermentation cooler, so the fermentation temperature was a bit higher than I'd like - room temperature with the house thermostat set to 75. This is warmer than would be ideal, but still supposedly acceptable for the respective yeasts according to the guy at the homebrew store and my friend who gave me the second recipe.

Any advice would be appreciated! And if there's any experienced brewers in the DC/Baltimore area who would be willing, I'd be happy to bring you a sample. It's very hard to talk meaningfully about flavor in standard english, I find.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:15 PM   #2
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Without a good description of the flavor, I think both of those possibilities could be the case.
You can scorch the extract, I don't brew much with extract - but when I did I made sure to cut the heat and add the extract until it's all stirred in.
Also, 75 room temp is really high - consider that fermentation is exothermic (produces its own heat) I see actual ferment temps at least 5 and sometimes 10 degrees higher than room temp. I don't know that you'd get a "sharp" flavor, but certainly lots of esthers and other flavors you probably don't want.

About your last point, until you've tasted and talked about lots of beer - it's difficult to describe what you're tasting. Keep practicing and it gets easier. Joining a homebrew club and tasting a dozen or more beers a night and discussing each has really opened up my ability to express different flavors/flaws.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:17 PM   #3
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I am new to this, but these are some things I have read. If you use an enamel pot, make sure there are no chips or dings inside.

I use an enamel pot and ferment at about 75-78 degrees.

Did you use tap water? I have been told that it can leave different tastes. I used both tap and bottled and the beer didnt taste any different, so I went back to tap. I have read that if you water tastes or smells like chlorine, that could cause off flavors in the beer.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:19 PM   #4
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Most likely it's the high fermentation temp. If ambient is 75, the fermenting wort could easily get into the mid 80's. To get truly clean beer the ferment must stay below 68f.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:21 PM   #5
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Carmelization from the boil can be a challenge to new brewers. I have settled for getting a good simmer instead and also adding half my malt at the end.

Lightstruck can also be an issue - is your beer in clear glass and getting lit by the windows in the day?

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:23 PM   #6
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There are no visible chips in my pot - doesn't mean there aren't any, I guess, but I'll take another look.

I'm using bottled spring water from the store... shouldn't be any problem there. I chose that water because it tastes great to me, much moreso than tap water or pure distilled water. Though I suppose it's possible that something's reacting with one of the minerals in it to produce the flavor?

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:46 PM   #7
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+1 to the ferm temp. At 80+ degrees ferm temp you can get all kinds of solventy off flavours as well as lots of esters and phenols that migh tnot be to your liking.

Freshness of extract. Extract brewing can produce world class beers but the extract must be very fresh. If the store where you are getting your ingredients doesn't have good turnover that could also be an issue.

Also think about the water you are using. water high in sulfate combined with high hop rates can produce a harshness.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:50 PM   #8
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+2 to temp. if its a hotish bitter, like a fusel alcohol, that is from higher ferm temps, lack of proper aeration and sometimes underpitching. I def go ferm temp on this one.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:58 PM   #9
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An estery, somewhat alcoholic flavor or aroma might indicate the yeast was overstressed. Hard to say from your description if that is or isn't the "sharp" flavor. How did it look in the primary? It might also be just the hop bitterness, which might come across as astringent without the aroma or flavoring to forewarn you.

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Old 09-26-2011, 11:26 PM   #10
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I am leaning towards the high fermentation temperature as well, but also how long have these been bottled for? Might want to let them sit a while and see if the taste mellows at all.

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